COVAX eyes 1.9 billion vaccine doses by end of the year

Workers load boxes of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines, provided through the COVAX program, into a truck after they arrived by plane at the Ivato International Airport in Antananarivo, Madagascar, on May 8, 2021. (MAMYRAEL / AFP)

ATHENS / RABAT / ABIJAN / LONDON / SANTIAGO / DUBLIN / MADRID / MEXICO CITY / BERLIN / BRASILIA / BUENOS AIRES / ROME / QUITO / HAVANA / NICOSIA / LUSAKA / JOHANNESBURG / ADDIS ABABA / MOSCOW / GENEVA / ZURICH / WARSAW / TUNIS – The COVAX vaccine-sharing facility expects to have 1.9 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines available by the end of this year, including 1.5 billion earmarked for the poorest countries, its managing director said on Tuesday.

Aurelia Nguyen was addressing a meeting of the World Health Organization (WHO) as COVAX seeks to put early supply difficulties behind it.

She said the GAVI vaccine alliance, which runs COVAX with the WHO, expects a “very strong increase” of vaccines available towards the fourth quarter, as supplies from new manufacturers come onstream.

COVAX, which has distributed some 95 million doses to 134 countries since late February, has had a rocky start, mainly because of the suspension of Indian vaccine exports as well as supply-chain bottlenecks which forced many poor countries to freeze inoculation programmes.

WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan told the same meeting that COVAX should have delivered 300-400 million doses by now.

COVAX has in total secured some 5.6 billion doses for this year and next from nine suppliers, of which 3.2 billion are through legally binding signed contracts, Nguyen added.

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Africa

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Africa reached 5,698,966 as of Tuesday noon, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said.

The death toll stands at 147,087 while 4,938,770 people across the continent have recovered from the disease, the Africa CDC said.

Argentina

Argentina on Monday reported 17,277 new cases of COVID-19 and 621 more related deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the cumulative caseload to 4,552,750 and the pandemic toll to 96,521.

Argentina is focusing on curbing the spread of the Delta variant after confirming five cases so far.

The government has limited the number of residents who can enter the country from abroad each day to 600, and the points of entry have been reduced to one: the Ezeiza International Airport located on the southern outskirts of the capital Buenos Aires.

Minister of Tourism and Sports Matias Lammens told the press Monday that Argentina adopted the measure so that "there is no community circulation" of the Delta strain.

Batavia Biosciences

Privately held Batavia Biosciences said on Tuesday it is working with Swiss start-up Swiss Rockets AG on an investigational COVID-19 vaccine that both companies hope to begin testing in humans next year.

"Batavia will collaborate…to develop a clinical process able to rapidly deliver 1,000 doses of material for clinical trials," Chris Yallop, chief operating officer and founder of Leiden, Netherlands-based Batavia, said in a statement.

"After successful completion, we will continue to scale-up and optimise the process for commercial scale," he added.

Brazil

Brazil registered 22,703 new COVID-19 cases and 695 new deaths in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said on Monday.

That brought the total in Brazil to 18.79 million cases and 525,112 deaths.

A boy is given a first dose of the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19 at the Teleton Institute, a clinic that specializes in treating chronically ill children in Santiago, Chile, Tuesday, June 22, 2021. (ESTEBAN FELIX / AP)

Chile

Chile on Monday said it will lift lockdown restrictions throughout the Santiago Metropolitan Region on Thursday, following a  decrease in new cases of COVID-19.

The positivity rate in the past day dropped to 3.7 percent in the capital, and active cases have also declined, Health Minister Enrique Paris said at a press conference.

Starting from July 8, 26 towns across the country will emerge from lockdown to advance to phase 2, which calls for social distancing restrictions on weekends only. The towns include three in the Metropolitan region that were among the last to see cases recede.

The Ministry of Health reported 2,852 new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, bringing the total caseload to 1,572,608. Another 146 newly reported deaths took the pandemic toll to 33,249.

Cuba

Cuba reported on Monday 3,075 new COVID-19 cases and 21 more deaths in the last day, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 207,322 and the death toll to 1,372, the Ministry of Public Health said.

The western province of Matanzas registered 795 cases in the last 24 hours, with an incidence rate of 1,135.5 per 100,000 inhabitants, the highest in the country.

So far, 6.67 million doses of the Soberana-02 and Abdala vaccines have been administered, with more than 2.86 million Cubans receiving at least one dose.

Cyprus

Cyprus on Monday offered additional incentives to encourage people to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

According to a government statement, those who have received at least one dose of an EU-approved vaccine or have recovered from the virus in the last six months will have their holiday accommodation costs subsidized by the state by 35 percent.

The subsidy will be valid during the holiday peak period from July 16 to Aug 31.

According to the statement, those who prefer to take a coronavirus test each week will not be eligible for this subsidy.

The authorities have halved the period of validity for such tests, requiring a fresh one to be taken every 72 hours. After Aug 1, people will have to pay the costs of the required tests themselves.

Ecuador

Ecuador has registered 507 new COVID-19 infections and 29 more deaths since Saturday, to taking the tally to 462,649 cases with  16,009 deaths, the Ministry of Public Health said on Monday.

The ministry, which did not issue a daily report on Sunday, reported that the province of Pichincha, where the capital Quito is located, saw the most cases with 132 infections.

Ethiopia

Ethiopia registered 68 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, taking the nationwide tally to 276,503 as of Monday evening, the Ministry of Health said.

One more death and 131 new recoveries were reported, taking the pandemic toll to 4,332 and the total number of recoveries to 261,156.

European Union

John Ryan, a senior European Commission health official, told a briefing that the bloc hoped to donate a further 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to low and middle income countries by year-end, using the COVAX facility as the main channel.

Global tally

Coronavirus cases worldwide exceeded 184.28 million while the global death toll topped 3.98 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Greece

Greece's vaccinations committee said on Monday it recommended inoculating teenagers aged between 15 and 17 as part of efforts to increase the country's protection against the coronavirus and its variants.

As things stand, those under 18 years are not being vaccinated. The committee's recommendation needs to be approved by the government before it becomes policy.

On Monday, health authorities reported 801 confirmed cases of COVID-19 infections and six deaths, bringing total infections to 426,963 since the first case was detected in February last year and the death toll to 12,743.

"This summer is being overshadowed by the Delta variant, which can be highly contagious in a very short exposure time," Maria Theodoridou, head of the committee, said. "We believe (vaccinating teenagers) is a safe step towards normality," she said.

As of Monday, 38.2 percent of Greece's eligible population was fully vaccinated while 47.7 percent had had one dose, officials said.

Federal police officers check incoming passengers traveling from Portugal, at Frankfurt airport, Germany, June 29, 2021. (BORIS ROESSLER / DPA VIA AP)

Germany

Germany should lift all remaining coronavirus-linked social and economic curbs as soon as everyone has been offered a vaccine, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas was quoted as saying on Tuesday, suggesting that point should be reached next month.

Around 56.5 percent of people in Germany have received at least one dose and almost 39 percent are fully vaccinated, according to health ministry data.

"When everyone in Germany has received a vaccine offer, there is no longer a legal or political justification for any kind of restriction," Maas told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung. That should occur sometime during August, he added.

That should occur sometime during August, he added.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has previously said she wants to offer everyone in Germany a vaccine by Sept 21.

In January, Maas was the first German government minister to call for restrictions to be eased for vaccinated people and suggested they should be allowed to visit the cinema or eat in restaurants. Other ministers opposed special exemptions for the vaccinated.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 440 to 3,731,564, RKI data on Tuesday. The reported death toll rose by 31 to 91,062.

Ireland

The Delta variant of COVID-19 now accounts for over 70 percent of the confirmed cases in Ireland, said Tony Holohan, chief medical officer of the Irish Department of Health, in a statement released Monday evening.

According to the statement, 365 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 were reported in Ireland on Monday, bringing the tally to 274,306.

The latest official figures showed that as of June 27, over 4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered in Ireland, accounting for about 80 percent of the total population.

Prime Minister Micheal Martin told local media earlier in the day that he believed close to 50 percent of people in Ireland would get fully vaccinated by July 6.

More COVID-19 restrictions were eased starting Monday, including allowing more people to attend outdoor events and letting a maximum of 50 people at wedding receptions.

Italy

Italian authorities on Monday confirmed that COVID-19 vaccination is mandatory for professionals who work in healthcare services, local media reported.

"Vaccination is mandatory for all those working in healthcare facilities," Ansa news agency quoted Health Minister Roberto Speranza as saying.

The minister's remarks came two days after reports that some 300 healthcare workers in the country's northern regions filed a legal appeal before an administrative court in Brescia against this requirement.

More than 54 million doses of authorized vaccines have been administered so far, and over 21 million people, which account for more than 39 percent of the country's population over 12, have been fully immunized, according to the latest official data.

The health ministry on Monday reported 480 new coronavirus cases and 31 fatalities. In total, Italy has registered over 4.2 million cases and 127,680 fatalities.

Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast began sending mobile clinics on Monday to markets and other busy areas in its main city Abidjan in an effort to turbocharge the vaccination campaign against COVID-19.

After administering fewer than 800,000 doses since vaccinations began in March – enough for a single dose for just 3 percent of the population – Ivorian health authorities are now aiming to inoculate a million people in Abidjan over the next 10 days.

While acknowledging that will be a tall order, they hope to pick up the pace by targeting some of Abidjan's most frequented places, especially its vast open-air markets where most of its 5 million residents shop for food and clothing.

Ivory Coast has received about a million doses of the AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Sinopharm vaccines to date, and the government says it expects to take delivery of 1.2 million more doses by mid-July.

Luxembourg's Prime Minister Xavier Bettel (front) leaves at the end of an EU summit at the European Council building in Brussels on June 25, 2021. (JOHN THYS / POOL PHOTO VIA AP)

Luxembourg

Luxembourg's Prime Minister Xavier Bettel is in a serious but stable condition after contracting COVID-19 and will remain in hospital for the time being, the government said on Monday.

When Bettel was admitted to hospital on Sunday due to persistent symptoms, an insufficient oxygen saturation was diagnosed, according to a statement by the state ministry.

"The prime minister's current medical condition is considered serious, but stable," the ministry said.

"Therefore, the medical staff treating the prime minister has decided that hospitalization is still necessary at this time for an estimated period of 2-4 days to continue observation."

Bettel would continue to coordinate the government's work and fulfil his duties from a distance, according to the statement.

Bettel, 48, tested positive shortly after a two-day EU summit in Brussels at the end of June, where participants included French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and other European leaders.

Mauritius

Mauritius, a tourism-reliant Indian Ocean island nation, is set to fully inoculate 70 percent of its population by the end of September, before the second phase of reopening its borders to vaccinated tourists, according to Finance Minister Renganaden Padayachy. 

The target is within reach after the country received a second consignment of 500,000 Sinopharm vaccines on Sunday.

Mexico

Mexico reported 1,805 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country and 67 more fatalities, bringing its total to 2,541,873 infections and 233,689 deaths, according to health ministry data published on Monday.

Mexico has produced a first test batch of the Russian Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine at a local plant, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which markets the shot abroad and signs manufacturing deals, said on Monday.

Morocco

Moroccan pharmaceutical firm Sothema will soon start production of 5 million doses a month of China's Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine in the North African country, state news agency MAP reported on Monday.

The announcement was made at a ceremony chaired by King Mohammed VI during which the Moroccan government, Sinopharm and Sothema, whose formal name is Société Thérapeutique Marocaine, also signed deals to produce the vaccine in Morocco, which has a population of about 36 million.

At the same event, the Moroccan government also signed a deal with Sweden’s Recipharm to set up a plant in Morocco to produce other key vaccines.

ALSO READ: S. Africa hits new record with 26,000 daily COVID-19 cases

People queue to be tested for COVID-19 in Windhoek, Namibia, on June 15, 2021. (DIRK HEINRICH / AP)

Namibia

Namibia, facing one of the world’s highest rates of COVID-19 infections, confirmed the Delta variant is present in the country.

“The Delta variant was detected in 17 out of 28 samples analyzed,” Health Minister Kalumbi Shangula told reporters on Monday in the capital, Windhoek.

The southwest African nation with a population of about 2.5 million recorded 4,795 coronavirus cases per million people over the last week, the highest rate globally for that period, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Poland

The number of COVID-19 cases in Poland is likely to accelerate in autumn, the Polish health minister said on Tuesday, as authorities urge people to get vaccinated before a potential fourth wave of infections.

"Most forecasts agree on the fact that at the turn of September and October, or November, we may have to deal with another acceleration and we must treat that as the most likely scenario," Adam Niedzielski told a news conference.

Russia

Russia reported a record 737 deaths from coronavirus-linked causes in the past 24 hours on Tuesday, pushing the national death toll to 139,316.

The country confirmed 23,378 new COVID-19 cases, including 5,498 in Moscow, taking the official national tally since the pandemic began to 5,658,672.

The federal statistics agency has kept a separate count and has said Russia recorded around 270,000 deaths related to COVID-19 from April 2020 to April 2021.

Health minister Mikhail Murashko was quoted by TASS on Tuesday as saying that up to 850,000 people were being vaccinated against COVID-19 in Russia every day and building up immunity was key.

People wait in line for a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in a park in Moscow, Russia, July 5, 2021. (PAVEL GOLOVKIN / AP)

The Kremlin would not support the idea of closing borders between Russia’s regions to stop the virus from spreading, although some regions may take swift and harsh measures to withstand the pandemic, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday.

The recent surge in COVID-19 cases, along with the need to raise interest rates to combat inflation, are seen challenging economic growth in Russia this year.

South Africa

South Africa has begun the vaccination of police officers with Johnson & Johnson (J&J)’s vaccines.

The vaccination started on Monday morning in Johannesburg with the inoculation of police minister Bheki Cele and national police commissioner Khehla Sitole.

“We have been looking forward to this day. It is unfortunate that we are getting vaccinated when we have lost 772 of our members. We wish this could have came earlier. A total of 32,500 of our members were affected and about 30,000 have recovered. I urge members to get vaccinated …so that they would be able to work protected," said Cele.

He called on the police to observe the COVID-19 protocols even after vaccination.

Spain

Coronavirus infections in Spain have risen by 32,607 since Friday, official data showed on Monday, 85 percent more than the previous weekend's increase as the Delta variant drives a surge among unvaccinated young people.

While the nationwide 14-day infection rate reached 204 cases per 100,000 people on Monday, up from 95 cases a week ago, that figure climbed to 640 cases among 20-29 year olds, the data showed.

Monday's update brought the total tally of coronavirus cases to 3,866,475 and the death toll rose by 23 to 80,934.

Some 89 percent of Spaniards over 40 have received at least one dose, compared with 14 percent of 20-29 year olds.

Hospital admissions have so far been largely unaffected and national intensive care occupancy stands at less than 7 percent.

Tunisia

Tunisia said on Tuesday it will buy 3.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine directly from Johnson & Johnson, amid sharp criticism of the government for the slow pace of its vaccination campaign.

So far, only about 592,000 Tunisians have received the two doses of vaccine in the country of 11.6 million residents.

After successfully containing the virus in the first wave last year, Tunisia is grappling with a rise in infections. It imposed a lockdown in some cities since last week, but rejected a full national lockdown due to the economic crisis.

In total, Tunisia has recorded 447,000 coronavirus cases and more than 14,000 deaths.

UK

The UK government set out plans to relax self-isolation rules that had been designed to stop the spread of Covid-19, amid warnings that infection rates could rocket to 100,000 new cases per day.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced that from Aug 16, “anyone who is a close contact of a positive case will no longer have to self-isolate if they have been fully vaccinated.” The same rule will apply to under-18s, who are not currently being vaccinated, he said.

The news marks the latest step in the government’s plan to get the country back to normal and to encourage the public to learn to live with coronavirus, after most adults have been given vaccines.

Ending the requirement to send whole school year-group “bubbles” home if one child tests positive will also ease the threat of disruption for millions of working parents and their employers.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday announced plans to end social distancing and capacity limits at venues in England from July 19, saying that people must learn to live with coronavirus.

Face masks will be made voluntary in all settings and the government will no longer instruct people to work from home, in a decisive shift from legal requirements to personal responsibility.

All remaining businesses will be allowed to open, including nightclubs, and none will be required to demand any proof of vaccination or testing before entry. The final decision will be still need to be confirmed on July 12.

Johnson also said that people under 40 would be invited for their second COVID-19 shots from eight weeks after their first dose, rather than 12 weeks, bringing it into line with the policy for over-40s.

He added that while he believed this was the best time to end restrictions, people should still be cautious and that containment measures could be brought back if needed.

The UK on Monday reported 27,334 new cases and nine more deaths, bringing the cumulative tally to 4,930,534 with 128,231 fatalities, according to official data.

ALSO READ: British royal Kate self-isolating after COVID-19 contact

Zambia

The Zambian government on Monday received 2,000 oxygen cylinders which would help curtail the shortage of the commodity due to increased COVID-19 cases.

The oxygen cylinders from I.K. Charitable, a non-governmental charity organization in Zambia, will enable the government to ensure the improved provision of the commodity.

The total number of cases recorded in Zambia rose to165,513 after 1,231 new cases werer recorded in the last 24 hours.

Another 49 people have died, bringing the toll  to 2,492.